Smithsonian Science How Webcast Archives

Photo of host Maggy Benson and paleontologist Nick Pyenson

Host Maggy Benson and paleontologist Nick Pyenson discuss fossil whales in the first Smithsonian Science How webcast. Smithsonian photo by Wei Qian.

Welcome to the Smithsonian Science How webcast archives! We’re putting Smithsonian experts in every classroom with webcasts aligned with national science standards. These webcasts originally aired live from the Q?rius theater in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Here you can access past programs and related teaching resources.

Click a link below to jump to a list of webcasts in each discipline. (The program descriptions note whether a webcast includes material about more than one discipline.)

Earth Science | Life Science | Paleontology | Social Studies 

EARTH SCIENCE
 Photo of geologist Tim McCoy in the field

Astrogeology - Meteorites and Spacecraft Missions

EARTH SCIENCE|PHYSICAL SCIENCE

Have you ever wondered how we study asteroids and other bodies in our solar system without sending spacecraft to all of them? Meet geologist Tim McCoy, who wrote code for the Mars Spirit rover, and learn why meteorites are great sources of information. Aired June 25, 2015.

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 Photo of Mike Wise with quartz boulder

Mineral Dependence - Gemstones to Cellphones

EARTH SCIENCE

Meet geologist Michael Wise. He studies unusual rocks called pegmatites, which he considers to be "Nature’s Giant Treasure Chests" because they often contain large and rare crystals. How would your life be different without these unique rocks? Aired Apr. 16, 2015.

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Photo of Cara Santelli

Mineral Transformations - Demystifying MIcrobes

EARTH SCIENCE|LIFE SCIENCE

Did you know that microbes are a solution to pollution? Meet geologist Cara Santelli, who studies the relationship between minerals and microbes, such as bacteria and fungi. Learn how she works to better understand how microbes can help clean up metal pollutants from old coal mines. Aired March 12, 2015.

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Geologist Elizabeth Cottrell in her lab

Volcano Geochemistry: Windows to Earth's Interior with Elizabeth Cottrell

EARTH SCIENCE

What do volcanoes reveal about the Earth? Geologist Elizabeth Cottrell explains how volcanoes form, how they work, and what comes out of them. See what she learns from volcanic rocks collected from the seafloor. Aired May 15, 2014.

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LIFE SCIENCE
Dan Babbitt holding a Malayan jungle nymph

Arthropod Adaptations: Inside the Insect Zoo with Dan Babbitt

LIFE SCIENCE

Discover the survival secrets of insects and other arthropods. Dan Babbitt, manager of the Museum's Insect Zoo, brings a few of his favorite segmented friends onto the set and explains their unique behavior. Aired March 13, 2014.

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Helen James conducting research in a Hawaiian cave

Bird Extinctions - Time Travel through Lava Tubes

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

How can common birds such as the passenger pigeon go extinct? Join ornithologist Helen James to consider what factors make birds vulnerable to extinction. Follow Helen into Hawaiian lava tubes to look for fossil evidence of bird life on the islands. See which bird species survived and which did not after humans arrived on the scene. Aired Dec. 11, 2014.

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Photo of Rusty Russell in U.S. National Herbarium

Ecosystem Change - Plotting with Plant Collections

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

Meet Botany Collections Manager Rusty Russell, who manages collections activities in the U.S. National Herbarium, a research collection that contains more than 5 million pressed, dried plant specimens. He discusses how plant collections reveal the stories of our changing landscapes – and how citizens scientists can help with the research. Aired Jan. 15, 2015.

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Carole Baldwin in a mini-submarine

Exploring the Unexplored: Deep Reef Biodiversity with Carole Baldwin

LIFE SCIENCE

Meet marine biologist Carole Baldwin and learn how she studies fish diversity on coral reefs at depths of 200-1,000 feet. Find out what new species she has discovered. Aired Apr. 24, 2014.

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Carla Dove examines feathers in her lab

Forensic Ornithology: Bird Detective with Carla Dove

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE|ENGINEERING

What happens when birds and airplanes collide? Ornithologist Carla Dove shares how the Feather Identification Lab helps make us safer on planes and birds safer in the air. Aired Feb. 12, 2014.

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Chris Meyer sits on a boat near Moorea

Measuring Biodiversity: Life in One Cubic Foot with Chris Meyer

LIFE SCIENCE

Dive into the diverse world of coral reefs with marine biologist Chris Meyer! Learn how he uses “reef hotels” to study the biodiversity of coral reefs in Indonesia and French Polynesia – and why biodiversity research is vital. Aired Apr.10, 2014.

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Photo of Karen Osborn working on a research ship

Ocean Biodiversity - Discovering Marine Invertebrates

LIFE SCIENCE

What unknown creatures live in the open ocean? Join zoologist Karen Osborn as she peers into the ocean depths using a remotely operated vehicle to look for organisms. See the life she discovers in the mid-water habitat 200-4,000 meters down. Find out how zoologists give names to the new species they find. Aired March 26, 2015.

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PALEONTOLOGY
Photo of Brian Huber

Global Change - Reading Ocean Fossils

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

Meet paleobiologist Brian Huber, who specializes in tiny organisms called foraminifera (forams) that are great indicators of global changes. How can a microscopic organism that most people have never seen be so useful? Take a journey with Brian to find out how forams can tell stories about conditions on Earth millions of years ago. Aired Feb. 12, 2015.

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Kirk Johnson holding plant fossils

Mass Extinction: Solving the Dinosaur Mystery with Kirk Johnson

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

What caused the large dinosaurs to go extinct? Join Kirk Johnson, a paleobotanist and Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History, as he explores the extinction and recovery stories told by fossils found at the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota. Examine evidence for the causes and consequences of the mass extinction. Aired Oct. 8, 2014.

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Scott Wing on a red earth hillside in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming

Paleobotany - Climate Change Past and Present with Scott Wing

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

Learn how paleobotanist Scott Wing reads past climates from fossilized leaves. See how plant communities have changed in response to global climate changes. Understand today's warming of our planet in a geological context. Aired June 5, 2014.

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Nick Pyenson on a beach with a fossil

Unearthing Fossil Whales

LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

Join paleontologist Nick Pyenson in uncovering fossil whales in Panama, Canada, and Chile and probing their evolutionary mysteries using 3D laser scanning technology. Aired Jan. 16, 2014.

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SOCIAL STUDIES
Kari Bruwelheide examines a human skull

Forensic Anthropology: Bone Whispering with Kari Bruwelheide

SOCIAL STUDIES|LIFE SCIENCE|PHYSICAL SCIENCE

For forensic anthropologist and “Museum CSI” Kari Bruwelheide, every bone tells a story – sometimes a grisly one. Learn how she examines human skeletons to solve mysteries, including whether Jamestown settlers practiced "survival cannibalism." Aired Feb. 27, 2014.

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Briana Pobiner studies a zebra bone in a field

Human Evolution: Early Human Diets with Briana Pobiner

SOCIAL STUDIES|LIFE SCIENCE

What did early humans have for dinner a million years ago? Anthropologist Briana Pobiner explores the influence of diet, especially the shift to meat eating, on human evolution. Aired March 27, 2014.

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Smithsonian archaeologist Torben Rick on a beach in California's Channel Islands

Island Biodiversity - Tracking Human Influences

SOCIAL STUDIES|LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

How did early Americans impact the coastal environment? Join archaeologist Torben Rick in analyzing evidence from human settlements in California’s Channel Islands and along the Chesapeake Bay. Learn how studying human impacts from thousands of years ago can help manage island ecosystems today. Aired Nov. 6, 2014.

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 Photo of anthropologist David Hunt

Mummy Science - Natural and Cultural Preserved Remains

SOCIAL STUDIES|LIFE SCIENCE|EARTH SCIENCE

Meet anthropologist David Hunt, who is an expert on mummies and how they are made. Did you know that mummies are often made accidentally? Compare human-made mummies to naturally-made mummies as we take a journey into research on people of the past. Aired May 7, 2015.

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 Photo of Joshua A. Bell with cellphones

Unseen Connections - A Natural History of the Cellphone

SOCIAL STUDIES|EARTH SCIENCE

Could you live without your cellphone? Meet cultural anthropologist Joshua A. Bell. He studies the social implications of the cellphone being one of our most intimate possessions. Explore the cellphone supply chain and how these gadgets are changing the world. Aired June 4, 2015.

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Photo credits for the tables, from top to bottom: 

Earth Science -  Courtesy of Myaamia Center Archives; Smithsonian Institution; Courtesy of Sarah Carmichael, Appalachian State University; Wei Qian, Smithsonian Institution. Life Science - Courtesy of Cameron Davidson; Courtesy of Carla H. Kishinami, The Bishop Museum; Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA-2002-24193; Barry Brown, Substation Curacao; David Price, Smithsonian Institution; David Liittschwager; Courtesy of Steve Haddock, MBARI. Paleontology - Kay Behrensmeyer, Smithsonian Institution; Diana Marsh, Smithsonian Institution; Courtesy of Ira Block; Courtesy of J. A. Goldbogen. Social Studies - Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution; Courtesy of Dr. Fire Kovarovic; Courtesy of Todd Braje, San Diego State University.; Smithsonian image 2011-01254 by Chip Clark; Jennifer Renteria, Smithsonian Institution.